On Tuesday's American Morning, CNN's Kiran Chetry used General David Petraeus's denunciation of a planned Koran burning by a church to blast the church's pastor for any subsequent deaths of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan: "Are you willing to have the blood of soldiers on your hands by this demonstration?" Chetry also lectured Pastor Terry Jones over his apparent lack of "refined" Christianity.
Chetry interviewed Pastor Jones 41 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour. After asking him why he and his church were planning to burn Korans, the anchor launched into her critique of the minister: "I wanted to let you say your piece, because when I first read this story, I thought there's no way that this could be as bad as it sounds. It appears that it is. You're saying that you're going to burn the holy book of another religion to send a message to the radical elements of that religion, with no thought to the fact that you'd obviously be highly offending everyone in that religion. How do you justify that?"
Later in the segment, Chetry turned theologian and quoted Scripture to Pastor Jones as she continued to question his planned action: "What about turn thy cheek? I mean, this is- you know, Christianity at its most- you know, refined. It's that you just don't act out in violence. You don't act out in any manner of hate, that you turn thy cheek, that you don't rise to the nastiness or the level of payback that your perceived enemies do. I mean, isn't this the exact opposite of what Christ taught all of us to be and to do?"
The first six words (bolded by me) of Deb Riechmann's report from Kabul, Afghanistan for the Associated Press are refreshing:
"We are in this to win," Gen. David Petraeus said as he took the reins of an Afghan war effort troubled by waning support, an emboldened enemy, government corruption and a looming commitment to withdraw troops - even with no sign of violence easing.
It would have been even more refreshing if the AP's Riechmann, who obviously felt compelled to tick off as many of the reasons Petraeus and the troops he leads may not meet the goal as quickly as possible, would have reminded readers that Petraeus's boss, President Barack Obama, has been decidedly allergic to using the words "win" and "victory" in Afghanistan since his inauguration. One of her later paragraphs presented a perfect opportunity to remind readers of the president's aversion. She passed; she shouldn't have.
Petraeus, thankfully, feels no need to hold back, as noted later in Reichmann's report (bolds are mine):
Forget Ford Hood and investigating the so-called "terror" connections of Nidal Hasan.
Yours truly has come across something the current crowd running our government might see as even more sinister. The Obama administration, the FBI, the Justice Department, and, most importantly, the White House's speech police simply have to get on this right away.
You see, General David Petraeus visited the Air Force Academy last week and may have uttered a word once thought to have been stricken from all speeches and discussions relating to military matters.
Give them credit for noticing. Pass out demerits for incompleteness.
Friday's USA Today carried a slightly inaccurate Page 1A tease ("Iraq is safer for US troops; October is on track to tie July for the month with fewest combat deaths"). It went to a top of Page 7A story ("US Deaths in Iraq on track for record low") that noticed how relatively well the month of October has gone for our troops in Iraq. That still is the case, with hours to go in the calendar month in Iraq. Reporter Charles Levinson even noticed that there have been no hostile US troop deaths in Baghdad during the entire month.
But Levinson missed the opportunity to notice even better longer-term results in Iraq. He also failed to notice that coalition troop deaths in Afghanistan, again with hours to go until the end of the month, are less than half of that seen in previous months. Finally, he didn't catch this remarakable fact, given the gloom that seems to abound over the supposedly intractable situation in Afghanistan -- Combined theater troop deaths in October have been the lowest in over four years. (Straight zeroes everywhere would, of course, be ideal.)
Here are the key paragraphs from Levinson's report:
A preview of an interview of impeached former president Bill Clinton ran on Wednesday’s "The Situation Room," in which Clinton blasted "disingenuous" Republicans for their "feigned outrage" over MoveOn.org’s ad attacking General David Petraeus. Clinton put on his best "angry face" during the clip. "This was classic bait-and-switch.... These Republicans that are all upset about Petraeus - this is one newspaper ad. These are the people that ran a television ad in Georgia with Max Cleland, who lost half his body in Vietnam – in the same ad, with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. That’s what the Republicans did."
DAVID SHUSTER: On Monday evening while guest-hosting the 6 p.m. evening hour, I conducted an interview with Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn. The congresswoman spoke at length about a newspaper ad that criticized General Petraeus. In what I believed was an effort to examine Representative Blackburn's priorities, I then asked her to name the last soldier from her congressional district killed in Iraq.
She responded "the name of the last soldier killed in Iraq from my district, I do not know." After that response, I identified who I believed to be that fallen soldier, a Tennessean killed in Iraq last month. But according to Pentagon documents, that young man came from a town inside a neighboring congressional district, not from Representative Blackburn's, and for that, I apologize for that mistake.
Friday night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, “actress/comic” Janeane Garofalo asserted she has “no doubt” that, on the Bush National Guard story, “there were executives at CBS that folded under right wing coercion” and she endorsed MoveOn.org's ad which maligned General David Petraeus as “General Betray Us.” The tattooed Garofalo, who has joined the cast of Fox's 24, charged: “Petraeus has been dishonest” and “is betraying us.”
On the Dan Rather lawsuit, she fretted incoherently about how “it's amazing how the right wing has done it in this country and it doesn't seem like it's a democracy at all when you let that happen.” On Petraeus and the MoveOn.org ad, she ludicrously saw the “mainstream media” as colluding with those who considered the ad over the line: “The thing is is to pretend that it's MoveOn.org that has the problem, and that the mainstream media allows that nonsense to continue. Yet, he is betraying us.”
Bill Maher gave an unsatirizable interview on Tuesday evening’s "The Situation Room" on CNN, spending a large portion of his ten-minute interview attacking, among others, General David Petraeus, Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, and Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, labeling them "stooges" for President Bush. When host Wolf Blitzer asked about the recent congressional testimony of the general and the ambassador, Maher parroted the MoveOn.org line. "Well, it was a White House-written report. We know that. Bush has an interesting little scam going. He also quoted in his speech on Thursday night, Maliki. And he said basically that the Iraqi leadership is asking us to stay. So, in other words, he puts words into his stooges' mouths, and then, he quotes them."
See Update at foot with list of Petraeus press appearances.
The gravest charge you can level at a military man, as MoveOn.org essentially did to Gen. Petraeus with its infamous "General Betray Us" ad, is to call him a traitor.
But close behind in the catalog of calumny is to call a soldier a coward. And that's effectively what Frank Rich did in his [p.p.v.] New York Times column of today.
Writes Rich [emphasis added]:
General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker could grab an hour of prime television time only by slinking into the safe foxhole of Fox News, where Brit Hume chaperoned them on a gloomy, bunkerlike set before an audience of merely 1.5 million true believers.
In his speech preview over lunch with television anchors and Sunday hosts, President George W. Bush expressed anger over the MoveOn.org ad which maligned General David Petraeus, a view Katie Couric vaguely relayed Thursday night without mentioning MoveOn.org while, on NBC, Brian Williams and Tim Russert specifically highlighted Bush's “outrage.” Russert related how Bush said “those who are responsible could, in effect, stuff it.” On ABC's World News, George Stephanopoulos, who attended the lunch, discussed some of Bush's comments during the gathering, but didn't mention his take on the full page ad, in Monday's New York Times, which declared: “GENERAL PETRAEUS OR GENERAL BETRAY US? Cooking the Books for the White House.”
Interviewing General David Petraeus for Wednesday's NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams insisted he admit “al Qaeda in Iraq wasn't around” on 9/11, demanded to know “how are we so sure all of these insurgents can be labeled al-Qaeda?” and derided Petraeus's admission that he's not sure if the war has made Americans safer: “I heard a commentator on television say, 'Can you imagine Eisenhower saying the same thing?'” That unnamed commentator: Williams's corporate colleague, Chris Matthews.
Williams challenged Petraeus: “Over the last two days of testimony, you mentioned al-Qaeda by our count 160 times. Now, for a lot of Americans, al-Qaeda, that's the guys who flew those planes into the buildings in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania. Explain what you mean because al-Qaeda in Iraq wasn't around that day.” When Petraeus answered that “they're the organization that has carried out the most horrific, most damaging terrorist actions in Iraq with just barbaric casualties,” Williams pressed Petraeus over “all these insurgents, how can you be so sure in a war without uniforms or membership cards, the claim by the critics is it fuzzes it up, it makes it a convenient, unified argument....How are we so sure all of these insurgents can be labeled al-Qaeda?” Williams ended by recalling how “moments after you responded to a question that you weren't sure that the war in Iraq had made Americans safer, I heard a commentator on television say, 'Can you imagine Eisenhower saying the same thing?'”
As far as MSNBC's Chris Matthews is concerned, David Petraeus, four-star general, commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq, someone who has devoted his life to serving our country, is no better than Charlie McCarthy, a ventriloquist's dummy.
Some people are hard to shop for, but when it comes to MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski it's going to be a breeze. Next to her name on my Chanukah list, I'm putting her down without hesitation . . . for a Roget's Thesaurus. Because when it comes to describing the performance of people across her political divide, Mika seems stuck on a solitary word: "underwhelming."
As noted here, reading the news of Fred Thompson's "Tonight Show" appearance last week, Mika editorialized that "it was sort of underwhelming, but . . . it's done."
At the top of today's "Morning Joe," host Joe Scarborough invited Mika to assess General Petraeus's performance before Congress yesterday, and . . . you guessed it.
"This is John Smith, reporting live from the beaches of Normandy, where Allied troops have launched a massive invasion aiming to defeat the Axis."
"John, this is Bob Brown back in the studio. When does General Eisenhower think the first Allied troops can start to come home?"
"What the . . . ?"
OK, the surge isn't D-Day. But surely an important part of what we are looking for in General Petraeus's report today is his assessment of the prospects for success in Iraq, right? Wrong -- if by "we" you include CNN. According to it's 9 A.M. EDT preview of the report, the only thing "everyone" cares about is the timing of withdrawal:
"CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric couldn't possibly expect to be criticized by a fellow, female, liberal journalist when she went to Iraq last week to report firsthand what was going on in that embattled nation.
Yet, on Sunday's "Reliable Sources," Salon editor-in-chief Joan Walsh ripped the leading member of the media sisterhood for "lobbing kind of softball questions," and not "working terribly hard to go beyond that kind of puff piece drop in for a few days kind of journalism."
In fact, Walsh demonstrated what happens when a discernibly liberal press representative dares to do an impartial, balanced report which doesn't exclusively bash Republicans, the president, and the war: